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Taiwan president renews call for US sale of new jets

September 30, 2011

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. - AP (File Photo)

TAIPEI: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou Friday renewed a call for the United States to sell new advanced fighter jets, despite a recent US decision to help the island upgrade existing aircraft instead.

Ma made the appeal for a US sale of sophisticated F-16 C/D fighter jets in a meeting with visiting US Congressman Hank Johnson, a Democrat, and the state-run Central News agency reported.

“I'm glad that (the United States) is still seriously considering (selling the F-16 C/Ds),” Ma was quoted as telling Johnson.

The United States said last week it would equip Taiwan's 146 ageing US-made F-16 A/B jets with new technologies, in a dollar 5.85 billion deal which fell short of the island's fervent wish for 66 new and more powerful F-16 C/Ds.

Although the package was less than what Taiwan had hoped for, it triggered an angry response from China, which warned that Sino-US military ties would be hurt as a result.

Taiwan has ruled itself since 1949, but China still considers it part of its territory and has threatened that it wants reunification, even if it means war.

The Chinese military is gaining a decisive edge vis-a-vis Taiwan, but US arms sales to the island make China's superiority less crushing than it otherwise would have been.